Waze isn’t the way… well, it can, but technology sometimes lags behind


How often do you wait for your GPS to figure out where you are?

Could be an actual GPS unit, and it might be an app, but it always seems like there are a few seconds to wait or items to select in order to get to the actual map. And I know what many of you are thinking…

A GPS unit? A unit? A mounted in the dashboard… or funnier still one you plug into the cigarette lighter… GPS unit? Of course you’re waiting for that to acquire a satellite signal. Of course you’re waiting for it to recalculate every time you change lanes on the highway or make a turn (even a turn it told you to make).

A GPS unit? Of course you’re waiting for it to figure out where you are.

But an app? No. Those things will just lock in on you immediately and you’re good to go.

And my response?

I get what you’re saying. I still occasionally use a GPS unit in our cars that’s roughly ten years old and I haven’t updated the maps on it in quite a while. It takes a mile or two of backroad driving to get the thing through the startup cycle, never mind actually reaching a point where it is showing a map that has my location correct. So… yeah… ha ha, a GPS unit.

But… the app part of your observation…

About an hour ago I got a message from the Waze app. Was telling me about a traffic snarl in Orlando. And… umm… see, I was in Florida about six weeks ago. I did use Waze a few times while we were there, and haven’t used it since. Right now, I’d have to drive a few hundred miles to get within one thousand miles of Orlando. So…

The Waze traffic alert message? Not that helpful. Quite honestly, only applicable because it thought I was in Orlando.

Now, Waze is wonderful and fun and I like it. Really haven’t used it much, as it was a recent addition to my phone. But so far, I’m good with it and I will be using it in the future. I’m not writing this to pick on Waze. I’m writing it simply because that alert caught my eye. It’s far from the only funny message I get from a wide variety of apps.

Usually it’s my weather apps that get screwed up. I actually have a couple of my phone. Even though most of them draw from similar sources, I’ve found I like the presentation style of one better… but can count on snow accumulation information better on another… and in general the long-range forecast is better on yet another. So, I do use a few of them.

Funny thing is, if I happen to go on a trip of some type (and distance) and don’t open the apps up after any of the significant drives involved, it often takes them a couple of days to figure out where I am. Arrive at my destination… get a nearby lightning strike alert for a place hundreds of miles away. Drive back home… get a frost warning for where I was. Gets to the point where I can’t just scan the message quickly. I have to read the whole thing, and at times even open up an app to figure out what the hell it’s trying to say.

Ever use a shopping app? I love those things—sarcasm alert—especially when they tick me off to the high heavens with their pick your local store features. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to open an app to access a coupon or looked up a store on the phone’s browser, only to be forced along a process of activating location services or adjusting my home store before it will let me get a coupon or see a price.

Let me see if I have this right… the phone has a locator in it… the damn thing can actually tell I’m standing inside the store… but the app or the web site keeps trying to tell me I can pick a product up this afternoon in a different store that I’m not even remotely near. Well, that’s amazingly convenient.

I do understand the basics of what is going on. Part of the issue is that as things get faster and more convenient, we tend to forget how slow and inconvenient things used to be. We get spoiled. Ten years ago… five years ago… even a month ago… there might have been times when I would have been out of luck because I didn’t have a coupon or a way of showing an associate a lower price from another place. Still…

I remember reading a book by legendary baseball manager Earl Weaver years ago. In it, he offered praise for umpires—which, if you knew Weaver at all, you would understand the humor in that—while also saying that although they did impressive work when you really considered the numbers involved it wouldn’t stop him from wanting them to do even better.

A wise thought there.

The items we have in our hands are amazing. Most of the current generations of smartphones are more powerful than the computers that assisted NASA in sending astronauts to the moon.

That still doesn’t mean they always know if the lightning is actually a threat to me. (And I wish they had warned me about the traffic I did encounter while running my errands this afternoon.)


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com